Outsourcing Human Suffering.
How the EU sponsors violence, terrorism and torture in the name of migration control.
Every now and again we see snippets of news about another rickety boat full of Africans, capsizing in the Mediterranean. Sometimes a few hundred people drown, other times they remain aboard the ships of volunteer rescue organisations, who then have to negotiate their entry into EU ports. Most of these boats have been bullied into giving up their life-saving operations. Individuals who still try are being prosecuted, pressurized and ridiculed. One of the main receiving countries, Italy, currently has the most right-wing government in Europe since WW2. Refugees are no longer given refuge, in defiance of international law.
The EU has effectively silenced the outcry of desperation that was the crisis of 2015, when over a million people entered the EU, sometimes literally crawling their way into the continent, carrying with them trauma’s we could hardly imagine.
But in spite of appearances, the crisis never disappeared. Millions are still suffering, homeless, penniless, traumatized and horribly vulnerable to abuse. As I have detailed in my book DISPLACED, the EU has successfully managed to obscure the suffering from view. It has done this by outsourcing the crisis in two ways.
First of all, the EU’s corporate agenda has ensured surveillance and security firms have reaped record profits by bolstering the EU security apparatus and effectively fortifying Europe’s borders with technology and physical barriers. This is discussed in detail in my book, but I have summarized some of the key findings here.
Secondly, the EU has ensured that the thousands of people en route to the EU, never make it. Before they even find themselves in the opportunity to undertake the dance of death by attempting to cross the Mediterranean, they are snatched by paramilitary forces in Turkey, the Sudan or Libya.
The ones in Turkey are relatively lucky, as they will most likely end up in camps, which at least have some form of scrutiny on the international stage. However, their journey to safety or more opportunities has come to an end and deportation awaits. People are often trapped in filthy, dangerous and overcrowded conditions. Medecins Sans Frontieres has described the EU’s cooperation with Turkey as a ‘cycle of containment and despair,’ and urges immediate evacuation of the camp residents.
People in Sudan and Libya fall victim to even more sinister forces. In Sudan, which is currently experiencing an uprising of its own, the so-called Rapid Support Forces lead the hunt for refugees, equipped and financed by EU money, whilst recently gaining prominence by gunning down peaceful protesters across the country. Refugees are deported without ever having the opportunity to apply for asylum, a practice called refoulement, explicity forbidden by the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Sudanese military regime also uses its enhanced powers to take out political opponents, even abroad.
In other words, by doing the EU’s policing, illegitimate regimes, well known for decades of violence and human rights abuses, are given carte blanche to extend their murderous activities.
In Libya, the situation is no less harrowing. Refugees are arbitrarily detained and sometimes tortured. Some reports have even suggested refugees are being sold on open slave markets, their lives completely in the hands of their persecutors.
Libya has not had a functioning central government since the NATO bombing campaign which unseated Qaddafi. Since then, TCFKAL(the country formerly known as Libya) has been transformed into a hotbed for terrorism, people smuggling and gangster capitalism, in another prime example of a disastrous military intervention led by powerful nations. Again, the backgrounds to this are further explored in my book DISPLACED.
What are we to make of all this? Well we certainly need to remind ourselves that the EU is not the progressive utopia that some are making it out to be, even in the darkness surrounding Brexit and Trump. Refugees will keep coming, as climate change is transforming landscapes and destroying livelihoods. This reality is one which the EU has so far managed to push back, but it will continue to be an aspect of EU politics in the future.